The Good Earth


(out of 5)

An important epic of the thirties that has not aged well for many reasons, the biggest of them likely to be the fact that it is a cast of mostly white actors in yellowface, with real Asians populating the background. , who is ridiculous, and , who is surprisingly elegant, play a hard working peasant couple who struggle against the oppression of famine and harsh politics in rural China on the eve of revolution.  Their early years, when romance overwhelms the misery of poverty, are soon followed by starvation before a stroke of fortune makes them wealthy but, as often happens, challenges their personal integrity.  At the centre of it all, Rainer (who earned her second Oscar for her efforts), maintains the conscience of her entire family while suffering with great nobility.  The cinematography by Karl Freund is superbly beautiful, and the scenery is effective considering that political heat forced principal photography to be done in California (though some establishing shots were filmed in China).  Rainer wisely never overplays a single scene, her beauty and soft manners bringing a lot of grace to an otherwise awkward melodrama that never quite gels.  Based on the novel by Pearl Buck.


USA, 1937

Directed by

Screenplay by , , , based on the novel by

Cinematography by

Produced by

Music by

Production Design by Cedric Gibbons

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

Academy Awards 1937

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